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Multivitamins boost heart health

Research shows that mild nutritional deficiencies play a key role in the development of life threatening diseases. This highlights the role of nutritional supplementation in the maintenance of heart health, and all round good health.

Daily multivitamin intake can reduce heart disease by up to 44%
The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA, 19 June 2002) made a landmark recommendation that all adults should take vitamin supplements in addition to eating a healthy diet. More research studies are showing us how marginal nutritional deficiencies over long periods of time, play a significant role in the development of serious health problems such as heart disease, the world’s number one killer, as well as diabetes and cancer.

In fact, a recent study showed how daily multivitamin intake could reduce heart disease risk by 44%. These results are significant considering the large sample size of 18,530 participants who were studied over a period of 20 years in this Harvard study.

Reasons for reduced nutritional intake

  1. Reduced nutrient density

Eating five portions of fresh produce daily is no longer enough; according to the latest dietary recommendations, we should be eating seven to ten portions of fresh fruit and/or vegetables daily. Interestingly, only one in five adults are believed to have met the previous fresh produce porition recommendation, and this was only once a week.

Why do we need to eat so much fresh produce each day?
 A higher intake of fruit and vegetables is linked to a lower death risk from cancer, stroke and heart disease in the Health Surveys for England study of 65,000 people. Health benefits seem to increase exponentially with each extra daily portion of vegetables, while fruit show less favourable results.

Seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day was linked to:

  • 42% reduction in overall mortality rates
  • 25% lower cancer risk
  • 31% lower risk for heart disease and stroke

Is this realistic?
Even for the super health conscious, aiming for seven to ten portions per day may be biting off more than what most can chew. Our diets of refined processed foods are inadequate in the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals our bodies need to stay healthy. While multivitamins can help fill the gaps, we should aim to increase our intake of nutrient rich vegetables.

Reviews of the nutritional composition of fruits and vegetables indicate a decline in the nutrient density, which represents the relative concentration of nutrients per mass of raw food. Contributing factors include food processing, depletion of soil nutrients, as well as prolonged storage of fruits and vegetables, manipulated via temperature and hormonal control.

  1. Restricted dietary intake

A reduction in nutrient intake is also found with sedentary people or the elderly, who need less energy from their diets to maintain a healthy body weight as they are less active. The more active we are, the more food we need to ingest to maintain energy levels, and the more likely we are to consume a variety of nutrients. The “dieting” population, who deliberately restrict food intake, represents a group of people who are particularly at risk of nutritional deficiencies.

  1. Drug induced nutrient depletion

A factor that may cause or contribute to nutrient depletion in our bodies is the use of medicines or pharmaceutical drugs, ranging from pain killers to prescription medication. Medicines which are known to induce nutrient losses, or interfere with the absorption or metabolism of nutrients, include pain killers, antibiotics, laxatives, diuretics, anti-inflammatory medicines, contraceptives, cholesterol-lowering medicines, antidepressants; and medication for high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy, TB and AIDS.

Conclusions

  • Most South Africans do not get optimal amounts of key micronutrients through diet alone
  • Daily multivitamins should be recommended to help close this nutritional gap
  • Multivitamins are safe, affordable, cost-effective and accessible
  • Evidence supports multivitamin use for the prevention of some chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, making it prudent to recommend that all adults take a daily multivitamin

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